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H is for Hawk by Deb Werksman

For the first time ever on this blog, I’m going to review a book!

I recently read H is for Hawk, a memoir about a woman who, while grieving her father’s death, decided to train a baby goshawk. (BABY GOSHAWK!!!!!!!)

This is MABEL, the goshawk. Isn’t she beautiful?

I adore hawks, let me just say—I see turkey hawks on my way to and from the office every day, and there they are up there, sitting on the lampposts, or cruising the air currents, with their sharp eyes, their magnificent wingspans, and their grace and deadliness. Shivers.

Helen MacDonald had experience with falconry, so she knew what she was getting into. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! I am completely satisfied with the vicarious experience of training a goshawk; I have no desire to try it myself.

Helen’s writing is magnificent—brilliant, beautiful, poignant and deep. I wished at times that she had  not taken the book into sadness at every opportunity—there were many instances when I felt the word choices could have been lighter, more joyful and delighted, but she was grieving at the time, so it’s understandable. She quoted T.H. White’s book The Goshawk quite a bit, and I could have wished for just about 25-30% less of that, but it was ok because the rest of the book was so magnificent. I particularly loved the falconry language. At one point, she says that Mabel “snapped into yarak instantly”—yarak is that state of supreme fitness and conditioning that results in a hawk being ready to pounce. Don’t you feel that way sometimes? (I do, without the fitness part.)

Highly recommend this beautiful fascinating memoir.


  1. This sounds like an intriguing read, and wow, I bet it was an undertaking! I adore seeing the red-tailed hawks soaring although I confess I was less enthused when they discovered the pet rabbit who took up temporary residence in our backyard and started circling. Thanks for sharing.


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